Murray's growing pains bring early exit

As Andy Murray can confirm, growing up is hard to do. The 19-year-old Scot was well placed to claim a significant victory here yesterday when his growing body failed him once again.

Murray led Gaël Monfils, another of the game's most promising teenagers, by two sets to one in the first round of the French Open before an injury to his lower back scuppered his chances of beating the No 25 seed. Monfils, who had lost when they met in Hamburg a fortnight ago, won 6-4, 6-7, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1 in three hours and 42 minutes.

The British No 2 was serving at 5-2 in the second set tie-break when he felt his back go. He won both the tie-break and the third set but called for the trainer as the problem worsened. By the end he was serving well below full pace and struggled whenever stretching to play a groundstroke.

"My back feels really tight and tired," Murray said afterwards. "There was no strength there. When I was moving wide I just couldn't do it. I felt as though my back was going to collapse all the time." Even so, it was a match - played in squally showers and a bitingly cold wind - that Murray felt he should have won quite comfortably. He led 3-0 in the first set but then lost five games in a row.

Despite his back problem, the Scot won the third set at a canter as a nervous Monfils imploded. When the Parisian started querying line calls - "I was a little bit disappointed with him," Murray said later - even his home crowd started to jeer. Murray won the first game of the fourth set but lost 12 of the next 14 as his back quickly deteriorated.

There had been some splendid tennis in the second set. Monfils, eight months older than Murray, hit some thunderous forehands and retrieved numerous lost causes thanks to his long reach and speed around the court. Murray had to be at his inventive best, varying the pace and playing some delightful drop shots.

However, losing matches from a winning position because of physical problems has become an all too familiar soundtrack to Murray's life story in the last year. Cramp was a key factor in his defeats to Thomas Johansson at Queen's, David Nalbandian at Wimbledon and Jean-René Lisnard in Monte Carlo. In March he suffered an ankle injury while losing to Stanislas Wawrinka in Miami.

Murray has consulted a German doctor, who says the root of his problems is the fact that he is still growing. The cramping in particular might be caused by the fact that the lower part of his spine is still growing.

"The doctor said that practising in Spain a lot and playing on clay was why I hadn't fully grown," Murray said. "The ball bounces really high all the time and there's a lot of lunging, which takes its toll on the back. This is my sixth or seventh week on clay. The long rallies today didn't help either." He added: "It's really difficult to get yourself in the best shape until you stop growing because you can get injuries. Obviously when you have a slight weakness in your lower back because you're still growing you can't push too hard or you'll hurt yourself.

"I hope I'm going to stop growing at the end of this year so I can really get myself in my best shape. I'm just over 6ft 2in now. That's a pretty good height for a tennis player." Murray does not expect the injury to affect his grass-court campaign, which is due to begin at Queen's the week after next. "The grass is pretty soft so it doesn't put too much strain on your body. I think I've got enough time to see the physio, get a lot of massage and do some exercises."

Andy Roddick, the men's No 5 seed, and Nadia Petrova, the women's No 3 seed, were also in the wars. Roddick aggravated an ankle injury and retired when two sets down to Alberto Martin, and Petrova, one of the year's form players, won only four games against Akiko Morigami.

Justine Henin-Hardenne, the defending women's champion, beat Maret Ani 6-3, 6-0, while Martina Hingis, playing her first match here for five years, beat Lisa Raymond, 6-2, 6-2.

Brits in Paris: How they fared

Tim Henman

First round: beat Kenneth Carlsen (Den) 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 on Sunday.

Second round: v Dmitri Tursunov (Rus), today.

Andy Murray

First round: Britain's No 2, hampered by a back injury, lost to Gaël Monfils (Fr) 6-4, 6-7, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1 yesterday.

Greg Rusedski

First round: lost to Paul Capdeville (Chile) 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 6-7 on Monday.

Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders